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Fireside Chat: Crying the News (Vincent DiGirolamo)

From the brilliant Benjamin Franklin to the dauntless Ragged Dick and the high-kicking Jack Kelley, hero of the Disney musical Newsies, newsboys have long commanded attention as symbols of struggle and success. But what do we really know about them? Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys places this idealized occupational group at the center of the American experience, analyzing their dual role as economic actors and cultural symbols over a century of war and peace, prosperity and depression, exploitation and reform. The book chronicles the career of hawkers and carriers from the 1830s to the 1930s in all parts of the country and on the railroads that linked them. It examines the place of girls in the trade and the distinctive experience and representation of black, immigrant, and disabled news peddlers. Based on a wealth of primary sources, including rare and iconic visual material, Crying the News reveals the formative role of newsboys in corporate welfare schemes, scientific management practices, and employee liability laws. It documents scores of forgotten newsboy strikes and unions, and their affiliation with the Knights of Labor, American Federation of Labor, and Industrial Workers of the World. The result is an epic history of print capitalism and working-class childhood from the pavement up.

Vincent DiGirolamo is an associate professor of history at Baruch College, where he specializes in 19th and 20th-century US history, with a focus on workers, children, immigrants, city life, and print culture. He is the author of Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys, published by Oxford University Press and winner of the 2020 Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Philip Taft Labor History Prize, Frank Luther Mott Research Award, and Eugenia M. Palmegiano Prize from the American Historical Association. Originally from Monterey, California, DiGirolamo received his BA from UC Berkeley, MA from UC Santa Cruz, and PhD from Princeton University.

This chat originally aired at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, October 22, 2020.

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